“Won’t Back Down” a record box office flop

by David Safier

Remember a few months ago, a movie, "Won't Back Down," starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter? It was about some parents and teachers who circulated a petition to take an inner city school away from the evil district bureaucracy and the corrupt teachers' union and turn it into — I think — a charter school (I didn't see the movie). They succeeded, to cheers, tears and hugs all around. I saw lots of TV ads for the movie, some full page newspaper ads, and I got lots of emails from conservative "education reform" groups pushing it as the most important film of the millenium. The Chamber of Commerce even kicked in $2 million for a publicity campaign.

Did you see it? I didn't think so. The film, made on a $25 million budget, grossed a little over $5 million at the box office. It holds the distinction of being the worst opening — ever — for a film released in over 2,500 theaters.

"Won't Back Down" took in a rough $2.6 million its opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, setting the record for worst opening of a film that released in over 2,500 theaters. The flick beat Rainn Wilson's "The Rocker," Drew Barrymore's 2007 romantic drama "Lucky You," Luke Wilson's family comedy "Hoot" and Jennifer Aniston's "Rumor Has It" for the dubious honor.

I'm getting a somewhat guilty but very warm shadenfreude sensation over this.The film was clearly an attempt to push the "parent trigger law" idea, and it failed at its mission. The film was based loosely on California schools that got "triggered" and are now charters. It happened too recently to get any idea how well that's working out. The California group pushing the idea tried to bring it to Arizona, but it encountered resistance from Ds and even some Rs in the legislature. The group plans to try again next session, but even the Goldwater Institute, which supports the idea, is, to paraphrase the film's title, Backing Down a bit. They don't plan to back the legislation — for now, anyway.

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